Let’s talk about Kentucky. The Wildcats clinched their 49th regular season SEC title. The SEC is pretty middling this year. It’s 6th in KenPom, closer to the AAC, the 7th best league than the 3rd rated Big East. There are only 4 teams in the top 40 of KenPom. They are Florida (33), Auburn (38) and LSU (40). Kentucky is 26. The league doesn’t have a single team projected for the second weekend.
I bring this all up because I’ve watched enough UK this year that I think they look like a Final 4 team. The analytics say something else. It’ll be a great eye test vs. analytics case study.
Kentucky is 32nd in AdjustedO and 42nd in AdjustedD. Certainly, those numbers aren’t bad but they don’t indicate a team capable of making a Final 4. They’re 12th defensively in effective fg%. The black mark on defense is lack of forcing turnovers. That is a problem for them. I’d argue they’d be better off running more but they can’t if they don’t force turnovers. They’re 211th in tempo and that’s who they are at this point.
Offensively, they’re a below average 3-point shooting team and that’s a concern. They make them at an average clip but they don’t take many. They’re 351st in percentage of 3’s accounting for scoring. They’re 348th in percentage of shots taken from 3 versus 2. They get to the line a lot and make their freebies. They’re 3rd nationally in free throw % and 4th in getting to the line overall.
As always, they have a lot of very good players. They aren’t as stacked with lottery picks as vintage Calipari teams but they have NBA players. Nick Richards has improved tremendously this year and the back court is probably as good as any in the nation. There is a lot to like on this roster except for shooting. Immanuel Quickley is a 42% shooter from 3 and is their most prolific shooter but outside him, it’s grim.
This is a fascinating team. I mean that as a compliment. I can’t wait to see what they do in March. Watching them, they look like a Final 4 team. The numbers scream a team that will need some luck to make the second weekend. I’m guessing the eye test wins out. Let’s see